On My Terms: A Personal Reflection and Declaration for Being Well

November 6, 2012
By

By Khahlia Sanders 

Is it possible to be a Black woman academic and live? I find myself asking this question every time I visit the university that I attend. Observing the small number of Black women graduate students, faculty, and administrators on my campus, I find myself pessimistic about answering this question. How can I answer this question when I see Black women STILL underrepresented, devalued, and dismissed? Nevertheless, there is something inside of me that continues to push me forward. Witnessing all of this, I remain hopeful and plan to continue upholding a wellness plan of sorts—prior to applying for graduation and even now.

So, what does wellness feel like? For me, it feels like having clarity about why I decided to pursue a doctorate degree and a possible future in academia. Before I applied to graduate school, I asked myself, Why enter academia? Articulating a response to this question was necessary for self-care. One night as I worked on the many drafts of my personal statement for graduate school, I had a discussion with myself (a practice of self-care) about why I wanted to embark upon this journey. I read about a few experiences in “Telling Histories: Black Women in the Ivory Tower,” edited by Deborah Gray White, and I took notes on what I did not want to encounter. Several talks later, with alumni of my graduate program and Black women I held in high esteem I decided that my journey needed to be different.

How could it be?  And, what needed to be eliminated so that I could prosper and continue to progress in my program? After months of contemplation, I received the clarity I needed. What I knew for sure was that this journey would not be a competition for me; this journey would not be about climbing a “social ladder.”  This journey could not be about learning behaviors that go against who I know myself to be and that could possibly have me working against myself.  No.  I decided that my journey would be about of what I could prove to myself academically, how could I research my interests in ways that served my spirit, and what skills I could acquire to take back into my own community and other spaces that I would enter.

Being clear about what this journey would be for me meant that I could begin to chart my path in academia, and how I could and would enter and exit it, well and whole.  Wellness feels like knowing that I am limitless. That is, the “ivory tower” will neither control nor predict how I will flourish after I complete my program. Yes, I hope to teach at the community college and university levels, however, that’s not the end of my story.  There’s more to do.

This journey is a challenge.  To be sure, I chose it.  However, I plan to complete it on my own terms.  And yes, I know there’s a high price to pay for this—but freedom has never been free.  Still, I’ve set my own pace.

“[Am I] sure [I] want to be well?” Yes. I. Am.  I will be well.  I love me.

_________________________________________

Khahlia Sanders is a doctoral student at a Predominately White Institution in the Midwest. Her research interests include feminist and critical pedagogies, qualitative research methodologies, and teacher professional development. She has taught for over 5 years in high school and non-profit organizations in her community. Feel free to contact her at kelsan0821@yahoo.com if you ever need to reach out if and when it gets too rough in academia.

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8 Responses to On My Terms: A Personal Reflection and Declaration for Being Well

  1. Regina on November 6, 2012 at 6:28 am

    K,
    Proud of you for penning this piece! Made me proud and smile. This must be the season for Black women in the academy to declare a plan for well-being. Just wrote a “Declaration of Independence” for myself the other day. I’m sending you a copy to you email address. Keep moving FORWARD!

  2. Regina on November 6, 2012 at 6:28 am

    K,
    Proud of you for penning this piece! Made me proud and smile. This must be the season for Black women in the academy to declare a plan for well-being. Just wrote a “Declaration of Independence” for myself the other day. I’m sending you a copy to you email address. Keep moving FORWARD!

  3. Regina on November 6, 2012 at 6:28 am

    K,
    Proud of you for penning this piece! Made me proud and smile. This must be the season for Black women in the academy to declare a plan for well-being. Just wrote a “Declaration of Independence” for myself the other day. I’m sending you a copy to you email address. Keep moving FORWARD!

  4. Regina on November 6, 2012 at 6:28 am

    K,
    Proud of you for penning this piece! Made me proud and smile. This must be the season for Black women in the academy to declare a plan for well-being. Just wrote a “Declaration of Independence” for myself the other day. I’m sending you a copy to you email address. Keep moving FORWARD!

  5. rochelle on November 6, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    well said sista…yes, i believe that you will be well.
    thank you for your story and your determination to put your well-being above all else!

  6. rochelle on November 6, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    well said sista…yes, i believe that you will be well.
    thank you for your story and your determination to put your well-being above all else!

  7. rochelle on November 6, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    well said sista…yes, i believe that you will be well.
    thank you for your story and your determination to put your well-being above all else!

  8. rochelle on November 6, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    well said sista…yes, i believe that you will be well.
    thank you for your story and your determination to put your well-being above all else!

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